MadSci Network: Other

Re: if our bodies are like cars we drive through life, where is the driver?

Date: Mon Dec 23 23:02:25 2002
Posted By: Dave Williams, Science Department Chair, Valencia Community College
Area of science: Other
ID: 1038934824.Ot

These are fairly heavy, philosophical questions for a mere biological scientist to answer. If itís no more than a simple opinion that you want, thatís easy. But remember, Iím not an expert on these things, just someone whoís looked into it and formed an opinion.

All that you are is wrapped up in your brain. You are your own consciousness. When it dies, thatís it. A cloned body cannot be you without your brain. Of course this is why we fear death. We donít want to leave the party. Often, we feel this way even if we are miserable. Only the bravest of the miserable leave voluntarily. I have never bought suicide as a cowardís way out. It takes considerable moxie to pull that trigger. Other than deep misery and courage, the only thing I can think of that would drive someone to voluntary death is a combination of courage and the promise of a great reward, either that of saving a loved one or gaining eternal rewards in an afterlife.

http: //,1300,552388,00.html

The apparent finality of death is, in my opinion, the reason for the enormous success of organized religion. Not only do we get promises of an afterlife but millions of people believe as we do. The notion that if everyone believes in it, then it must be true is a common logical fallacy.

In my opinion, organized religions, especially Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, have done far more harm than good over the many years they have held sway among our dominant cultures. Organized religion is institutionalized groupism (eg. nationalism) and groupism, though profoundly human, is the source of many of our woes. To ignore this aspect of religion is like ignoring an elephant in the room or pretending that the emperor is clothed when he is, in fact, naked. My personal favorite slogan is: "Divided we stand!" In spite of our differences we can agree on a common set of rational laws and defend our way of life against those who would blatantly attempt to take our freedom. Period. End of story.

This great potential of religion to do harm is the reason that the founders of the United States of America had the foresight to separate church and state. Itís not an idea that is now outmoded, as many religionists would have us believe. It is the most forward thinking idea of our time. There are too many different religions all claiming to have the truth. We should allow religious freedom but base our laws on reason alone, not faith.

My vote for the best hope for world peace is the abandonment of religious authoritarianism and the acceptance of reason and science. Science and religion have one thing in common, they both seek to explain the Universe. A main difference between science and religion is that scientists do not believe in their explanations. They work with their explanations until better ones are developed. Another difference is that science is always on the lookout for better explanations based on new empirical information. Religion clings tenaciously to authoritarian, mystical explanations, sometimes called dogma, in spite of empirical information to the contrary.

Occasionally, individual scientists may go astray and let belief in a particular theory interfere with good judgment (they are not supposed to do this, however). This is similar to religious leaders letting devotion to a dogma (they are supposed to do this) interfere with good judgment. In the former case, the individual scientist may make a few enemies or experience ostracism. In the latter, whole cities may be wiped out. Science does, of course, ultimately, provide the tools needed for easy mass destruction of the idolaters and infidels.

The best explanation that science can offer for the nature of "you" is that "you" are the consciousness created by the biochemistry of your brain. When you die, this consciousness ceases and so do "you." We are, of course, welcome to believe anything we wish in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

I hope my answer helps.

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